Three factors are indispensable to Dispensational Theology. They clearly make Dispensational Theology distinct from Covenant Theology. Any view of Scripture which does not contain all three is not dispensational in the truest sense of the term.
The first factor is the recognition of the distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church. Covenant theology believes that the Church existed in Old Testament times and that Israel was a major part of the Church in the Old Testament. Thus it is convinced that Israel and the Church are essentially the same.
By contrast, Dispensational Theology believes that Israel and the Church are distinct entities. It is convinced that although both have had special relationships with God, they are not essentially the same.
The second indispensable factor is the consistent use of a single hermeneutic (a single method of interpreting the Bible)–namely, the historical-grammatical method. In this method, words are given the common, ordinary meaning which they had in the culture and time in which the passage was written. Covenant Theology employs a double hermeneutic: the historical-grammatical method for many passages, but also the allegorical, or spiritualizing, method for a number of prophetic passages dealing with the future of Israel and the future kingdom of God.
By contrast, Dispensational Theology is convinced that the historical-grammatical method should be em-ployed for all of Scripture, including those prophetic passages related to Israel and the kingdom of God.
The third indispensable factor is the recognition that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God. Covenant Theology advocates that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the redemption of the elect. By contrast, although Dispensational Theology recognizes that the redemption of human being is a very important part of God’s purpose for history, it is convinced that it is only one part of the purpose.
During the course of history, God is working out many other programs in addition to the program of redeeming people. All of these programs must be contributing something to the ultimate purpose of history. Thus, the ultimate purpose of history has to be large enough to incorporate all of God’s programs, not just one of them.
Dispensational Theology proposes that the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God is the only purpose capable of doing this. It also is convinced that the Scriptures indicate that this is the ultimate purpose of history.
The successive dispensations glorify God in several ways. First, they demonstrate that God is the supreme Ruler through history, in spite of Satan’s attempt to overthrow that rule and man’s rebellion against it. The fact that God can hold man responsible to obey His different ways of administering His rule throughout history and can judge man for his failures to obey, demonstrate that God is sovereign through history.
The Scriptures repeatedly associated the glory of God with His sovereign rule. Second, the dispensations show how desperately man needs to submit to God’s rule in order to have things right on earth. They display the disorder and tragedy which result from the rejection of God’s rule. Third, the dispensations progressively move history toward the fulfillment of its God-intended climax.
In the final “dispensation of the fullness of times” (Eph. 1:9-10), God will fully glorify Himself by crushing Satan and his kingdom (Rev. 20:1-3), restoring His own kingdom rule to the earth through Christ (Rev. 11:15), and reversing the tragic consequences of man’s rebellion (Acts 3:19-21).
–From There Really is a Difference, Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Belmawr, NJ. Used by permission.